What makes you who you are? Although we know our curly hair, straight teeth and overall good looks are the result of the genes we inherit from our parents, it is much tougher to understand how exactly our personality, talents, and behaviours are developed. Are your musical abilities learned from your family or predetermined by your genes? This age old question has been in debate since the 13th century with no certain answer. It is not known how much of our makeup we can contribute to our parents or the environments we grow up in. For instance, you and your siblings may have very similar mannerisms and personality traits, but is this because of the genes from your parents or because you have grown up in the same environment? At the same time, one may argue that their siblings have more differences than similarities, but is it because genes are playing a smaller role, or has the environment just changed due to attending different schools, the child’s birth order, or the different friends and teachers that influence them. It is almost impossible to decipher whether differences are due to environment, simply because even though you may have grown up with the same parents, in the same house in the same neighbourhood, there are many other variables. A major one is the different people that affect our lives causing us to have different experiences. On the other hand, there have been numerous studies on genetics and their influence on individuals, namely twin studies.
Twin studies are a key tool in behavioural genetics and can show the extent to which genes play a role in influencing one’s traits. Studies have shown that identical twins share almost 100% of their genetic polymorphisms whereas fraternal twins only share 50%. This means that most variation in their traits is due to their individual unique experiences. Other twin studies have been conducted when twins are separated at birth and grow up without knowing they have a twin. They are studied and introduced later in their lives to see the similarities or differences that exist. A good example of this study is with twins Elyse Schein and Paula Bernsteinwho grew up not knowing about each other but met as adults. They were fascinated to find they had so many unique similarities even though they grew up in different cities with different families. According to Bernstein, this seems to show that genes influence at least 50% of one’s traits. Although this finding was dominant in this study, it does not hold true for all cases. Many would argue that similar social class, education, and family values are a big influence as well. Every case is different, there has been no agreement on how much of nature or nurture affects us, nor which one has a greater influence. The only thing that has been recognized is that both interact with one another and play a role in our development.
It is helpful to understand how nature and nurture affect and shape us not only in our personal lives, but also in the way we work and how we interact with our coworkers. We all have different thinking preferences, which are explained by Rick Boersma in Chapter 3 of his Graphic Innovation Field Guide. This is depicted in a four quadrant model and depending on which box you fit into, will determine your strengths and weaknesses. Being aware of your own, as well as other’s thinking preferences, can improve your work relationships and help you better interact and communicate with one another.
Co-Founder of Juice Inc, Thought Leader & Author
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